Speed Chess is Like Spinach for the Brain

This month provided a treasure trove of articles concerning chess in a roundabout way. The first such article to catch my attention was, ‘Chess is like spinach to the brain.’ It was written by Alesha L. Crews of the IowaPress-Citizen. The jury found her guilty of hyperbole in the first degree. http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20130602/NEWS01/306020028/-Chess-like-spinach-brain-?gcheck=1
Mark Samuelian in an article appearing in The Atlantic makes the claim that, “Speed Chess Changed My Brain.” Reading the headline caused me to recall standing in the balcony overlooking the empty playing hall before the World Open was to begin with the Legendary Georgia Ironman. He looked at me and said, “You know, everyone who will enter this room has had his life altered by chess.” Mr. Samuelian claims playing speed chess on the internet caused his synapses to fire as if supercharged, like pistons in a NASCAR engine coated with an illegal substance causing a boost before burning away so as to pass inspection. He placed much higher in a poker tournament even though, “I had barely even played poker over the last year, let alone worked at elevating my game.” What, then, caused his improvement? “What I had played was chess. Specially, I knocked out some 2,000 games of speed (or “blitz”) chess in the two months leading up to the tournament.” He did not win the tournament, finishing 5th out of 135 on Saturday and 3rd out of 35 on Sunday. I will not mention how much luck is involved in poker, especially tournament poker. Steve Solotow, quoted in the excellent book, “Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker,” by James McManus, says, “Unlike backgammon and chess, poker is a wonderful game because it has enough of a luck component that bad players sometimes beat good players, which keeps the bad players interested.” Maybe Mark would have finished first if he had spent the time reading, studying, and playing poker. There is much more to the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/speed-chess-changed-my-brain/277151/

An article in Computing begins, “In the keynote speech that opened this year’s Computing Enterprise Mobility Summit in London, Graeme Burton, chief reporter at Computing, likened the task of formulating mobility strategy to “playing chess on acid”.”
Makes me wonder how Mr. Burton knows…The title is, Making Enterprise Mobility Strategy ‘like playing chess on acid.’ Read more: http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2274017/making-enterprise-mobility-strategy-like-playing-chess-on-acid#ixzz2XY58gaAh
Like most of those who play chess, I think of things as how they relate to chess. For instance, an article in the Pacific Standard, Want to Learn How to Think? Read Fiction, made me think of the love of my life who told me I did not read enough fiction. The sub-title is, “New Canadian research finds reading a literary short story increases one’s comfort with ambiguity.”
The article begins, “Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making.” Exactly! Now I know why I made all those ill-considered blunders. Is it better to know, or would I be better off continuing to wonder. Does it matter? Is there an antidote to black-or-white thinking? You will have to read the article to find the answer: http://www.psmag.com/blogs/news-blog/reading-literature-opens-minds-60021/
I have spent an inordinate amount of time in coffee shops in my years as a Senior, due mostly to the fact that a coffee shop, especially one in a book store, is my favorite place to give a chess lesson. There have been days when I would give a morning lesson at a Barnes & Noble, have lunch, and then give an afternoon lesson at Borders, may it rest in peace. I would usually arrive early enough to prepare for the lesson, or at least to try and become focused for the lesson to come. That is the reason an article in the NY Times by Anahad O’Connor, How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity, caught my eye. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/how-the-hum-of-a-coffee-shop-can-boost-creativity/?src=me&ref=general&_r=2
From the article:
“In a series of experiments that looked at the effects of noise on creative thinking, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had participants brainstorm ideas for new products while they were exposed to varying levels of background noise. Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels. A higher level of noise, however, about 85 decibels, roughly the noise level generated by a blender or a garbage disposal, was too distracting, the researchers found.”
I wonder how many decibels the coffee grinder rates? Turning one of those things on usually brought all conversation to a halt. Some people would get up and walk around, or go outside to have a smoke. Now that was creative thinking! Back to the article:
“Ravi Mehta, an assistant professor of business administration at the university who led the research, said that extreme quiet tends to sharpen your focus, which can prevent you from thinking in the abstract.
“This is why if you’re too focused on a problem and you’re not able to solve it,” Dr. Mehta said, “you leave it for some time and then come back to it and you get the solution.”
But moderate levels can distract people just enough so that they think more broadly. “It helps you think outside the box,” he said.
The benefits of moderate noise, however, apply only to creative tasks. Projects that require paying close attention to detail, like proofreading a paper or doing your taxes, Dr. Mehta said, are performed better in quiet environments.”
The article begins, “Pulling up a seat at your favorite coffee shop may be the most efficient way to write a paper or finish a work project. But now a new Web site lets you bring the coffee shop to your cubicle. The site, called Coffitivity, was inspired by recent research showing that the whoosh of espresso machines and caffeinated chatter typical of most coffee shops creates just the right level of background noise to stimulate creativity. The Web site, which is free, plays an ambient coffee shop soundtrack that, according to researchers, helps people concentrate.”
So should game tournaments be held in an environment with ambient noise at a coffee shop level? The answer is contained in the article.
I clicked on the website (http://coffitivity.com/) and found it distracting. I kept looking around to try and put a face to the voice. The article says absolutely nothing about the social aspect of a coffee shop and what being around fellow humans does to one’s creativity. Guess that would be an altogether different study.

Mechanic’s Institute Chess Club Newsletter

The latest Mechanic’s Institute Chess Club Newsletter, #634, just appeared online. I have been a regular reader for many years. The Mechanic’s Institute is one of my favorite places in the country. Upon entering the historical feeling is palpable. IM John Donaldson does a fine job keeping not only club members informed, but also those of us who have left their hearts in San Francisco. John writes about the recently completed US Junior Closed in this issue. What he writes is so incredibly impressive I want to share it with you:
Long-time MI member Daniel Naroditsky of Foster City won the 2013 US Junior Closed, held June 14-22 at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center. Daniel’s undefeated score of 6½ from 9 earned him spots in both the 2014 US Championship and the 2013 World Junior.
Tying for second with 6 points in the 10-player event was fellow Mechanics’ US Chess League teammate Samuel Sevian of Santa Clara, along with Luke Velotti-Harmon of Boise. Victor Shen of New Jersey was fourth with 5½ points, followed by another MI member, Yian Liou of Alamo, and World Under 14-Champion Kayden Troff on 4½. Yian played an important role in determining the top spots, as he beat Sevian and Velotti-Harmon.
Not only were three of the top five finishers in 2013 MI members, but three of the five winners dating back to 2009 were as well.
Recent US Junior Closed Winners
(MI members in bold)
2009 Ray Robson
2010 Sam Shankland
2011 Gregory Young
2012 Marc Arnold
2013 Daniel Naroditsky
There are several reasons for this, one of which is the Mechanic’s Institute Chess Room. Young players need a place to play. Another is regular tournaments in the Bay area. There is a strong and vibrant chess community because of the tradition made possible by the Institute, and the many people who love the Royal game. The milieu fosters and engenders strong players because the area has everything needed for chess players to develop. A community trying to develop a culture of chess could do no better than trying to emulate the Bay area, which also happens to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I hope you will check out the Mechanic’s Institute Chess Newsletter at: http://www.chessclub.org/index.php

The Dream Castle For Rent

It is not every day one sees a sign proclaiming a castle is for rent, but such was the case as I traveled my favorite Peachtree Street, a street I have spent much of my life on, whether living or driving. Almost everyone who has lived in Atlanta has seen what has become known as The Castle on Peachtree Street, and many of those have been in it at one time or another. Most know it as Rhodes Hall, but the official name on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places is Rhodes Memorial Hall, and it is located at 1516 Peachtree Street. It was added to the Register of Historic Places March 1, 1974.
“Built in 1904, Rhodes Hall has been an Atlanta landmark for generations. While it was originally the residence of Rhodes Furniture founder Amos Rhodes, today it is a house museum and one of the most unique venues in Atlanta for social and corporate events. The upper floors of the “castle on Peachtree” are also headquarters for The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.” (From: http://www.georgiatrust.org/historic_sites/rhodeshall/)
The one night of the year it is always in use is Halloween, a night when it comes alive. It has been, and continues to be, used for many weddings.
“Rhodes Hall is a 2012 and 2013 winner of the Bride’s Choice Awards™. This prestigious award is determined by reviews from past clients and recognizes the top 5 percent of local Wedding Professionals from the WeddingWire Network.” (From: http://www.georgiatrust.org/historic_sites/rhodeshall/weddings.php )“Rhodes Hall, one of Atlanta’s few remaining mansions on Peachtree Street, is located just north of Pershing Point. Built in 1904, prior to the development of Ansley Park, Rhodes Hall was designed by one of Atlanta’s most celebrated young architects for one of the city’s wealthiest men. Constructed of Stone Mountain granite in the Romanesque Revival style, it holds state-wide significance for both the quality and style of its architecture.
Between 1901 and 1906, Amos Giles Rhodes assembled an estate of 114 acres on Peachtree Street at Brookwood, stretching across Tanyard Creek and including most of the present-day Brookwood Interchange at I-75/85. In early 1902, construction commenced on Rhodes’ great granite castle which he and his wife, Amanda, called “Le Reve” or “the Dream.” The home is believed to be inspired by Amos and Amanda’s travels through the German Rhineland in the 1890s. Costing nearly $50,000, the structure was finally completed in 1904 and was one of the most opulent of the large mansions overlooking Atlanta’s famous thoroughfare.” (From: http://www.georgiatrust.org/historic_sites/rhodeshall/history.php )
There has not been a time I have passed it without dreaming about one day participating in a chess tournament inside the “Rook.” It would seem to have been built for chess. At my age if that ever happens it will have to be a Senior tournament.

Castle Chess Grand Prix Lower Sections

There were six ancillary tournaments in conjunction with the Open section of the Castle Grand Prix. I will break with tradition and begin with the Under 1200 section because the battle for supremacy was between two females! Zoe Justice, a young girl, went into the final round with a score of 4-0 as she won her first three games before receiving a win by forfeit in the penultimate round. Her considerably older opponent, Karuna Atmakuru, from Tennessee, had won three games and drawn one, and therefore a half point back, playing the Black pieces. Watching this hard fought battle brought a line from a Bob Dylan tune, “Po’ Boy,” to mind: “The game is the same it’s just up on another level.” The top players may make better moves but they have nothing on these girls when it comes to intensity. Near the end Zoe had her opponent all tied up, but Karuna did have an extra piece, which prevailed in the end. This was still quite a showing for the talented and up and coming member of the Justice clan. If there is ever a team event in Georgia there could be a team Justice, and, who knows, young Zoe may possibly take first board ahead of her brothers.
There were many ladies playing in the event, including Leila Anne D’Aquin, from Louisiana, in this section. Carolyn Lantelme played in the class ‘C’ section and although she lost her first three games she did not give up, winning her fourth round game. She was a pawn down heading into an endgame with the higher rated Ross Johnson, but through grit, determination, and working hard at the board, managed to save the draw. I mentioned Elena Gratskaya in my previous post and will return to her when I get to the ‘B’ section, and there was Anuprita Patil, from NJ, in the Open section, who held Georgia Champ Damir Studen to a draw in the last round.
One of the differences between backgammon and chess is that there were always a large percentage of women playing in tournaments. In the 1980’s there was only one female playing in tournaments here. Her name was Alison Burt, and I gave her lessons. I did my job well because she punched me out in a tournament, but took no joy from it, until I told her I was not mad, but proud of her. I was not the only strong player she beat, but may be the only one man enough to admit it! The girls have come a long way. I recall seeing a flyer at the CCGP advertising a tournament for women in the fall. This could be an interesting event, indeed! I would like to propose naming it after Alison Burt.
Back to the U1200 section…Stephan Liao also scored four points to tie with Zoe for second-third. Jason Robert Wright scored 3 ½ to take clear fourth place. There were twenty four players.
Of the thirty seven players comprising the class ‘D’ section one stood head and shoulders above the others. Daniel Marmer ran the table, winning all five games, finishing a clear point ahead of four players, David Liu; Maxwell Chengming Guo; Zachary Justice; and Robert Julian Dicks. Mr. Marmer picked-up 312 rating points and almost blew right through the ‘D’ class. I’m sure his stay there will be brief. Mr. Justice increased his rating by 174 points and may be only a tourist in the ‘D’ section also. Ah for those long ago days when one could increase one’s rating exponentially. The scratching and clawing comes later…
The class ‘C’ section was swept you Jeffery ‘Major Domo’ Domozick with five wins to finish a point ahead of the field. The Major blasted right through the 1500’s, going from 1480 to 1660 while gaining a whopping 180 rating points! Jackie Liu, from Florida, won three and drew two to finish in clear second. Seven players finished with 3 ½ points to tie for third-ninth in the forty player section.
In the thirty eight player class ‘B’ section, the aforementioned Elena Gratskaya, William Remick Jr., and Teddy Willis each scored four points to tie for first-third. The latter two showed modest rating gains, but Elena increased her still provisional rating by over one hundred points, and is now in the ‘A’ class. You go girl! I do not know how to explain it, but during my interview I mentioned to her that she may have a chance to play in the US Women’s Championship. She smiled, but the look in her eye told me she had the desire. What can I say; it was a feeling, but a strong one. Elena will be a force in the upcoming tournament for women here in Georgia. What is the saying every chess player hears, something about, “Every Russian schoolgirl knows…”
Thirty three players punched clocks in the class ‘A’ section. Three players tied for first-third. DJ Cremisi, from North Carolina, earned fifteen points to end the tournament with an expert rating of 2001. This will always be his “Space Odyssey” tournament. It reminds me of a player named Antonio Angel who came to Atlanta with a rating of 2001 decades ago when hardly anyone had a rating beginning with a two. We thought he must be real strong with a rating that high! Ian Morton, of South Carolina, also scored four points, along with Jeremy Banta. Jeremy garnered enough points to skip right over the 1800’s. Kaita Alexander Saito, from Florida, and Mark Layne Weisberg, from Texas, scored 3 ½ to tie for 4th-6th with Georgia’s own John Austin, who just seems to keep getting younger. During my interview with Reese Thompson he mentioned how much he admired the seventy seven year old, telling me about all the higher rated players Mr. Austin has beaten recently. John picked up one point for each square on the board and is firmly back in the ‘A’ class.
I have already mentioned Reese Thompson, who tied for first-second with Lawrence White, each with three wins and two draws. Five players scored 3 ½ points to tie for third-seventh. They were led by the 2012 Ga. Senior Champ, and six time Kansas state champion, Alan Piper. Alexander Deatrick, from Michigan, Seth Taylor-Brill, of North Carolina, Grant Oen of New Jersey, joined John Lattier of Chess Mess fame to round out the herd.

Mea Maxima Culpa

I regret this post has been delayed. It was my intention to write about the lower sections of the Castle Chess Grand Prix in my previous post. If I have ruffled some feathers it was in my overzealous zeal to be timely. The Sheriff, Scott Parker wrote, via email:
As I told you, Jim Mundy, who ran the computer was not going to submit the tournament to USCF because he had another camp starting Monday morning, so Fun Fong said that he would do it. Jim got him the tournament file Monday morning, but Fun had to work a 10 hour shift in the ER that day, and it is at least an hour drive to and from work from his house. He started on the process, but wasn’t able to finish it before leaving for work. Since he wouldn’t be home until late in the evening, I advised him to just get some rest and finish it the following day (Tuesday). It will be up sometime today.
Please cut these guys some slack. Everybody who works at camp is exhausted by the end of the week. Both the Counselors (Fun) and the Instructors (Jim) spend 8 days working long hours and getting insufficient sleep. To have the tournament submitted to USCF within 48 hours of the end of the tournament is plenty good enough.
Best Regards,
Having worked at the House of Pain, I remember the phone calls, and those who would come by on Monday, the only day we were closed, trying to ascertain exactly why their new rating had not been posted online when they had their first cup of coffee that morning. The fault is mine; I take the blame. I should have stayed until a copy of the crosstables could be printed out for me. And I will cut everyone, especially Fun Fong some slack. And I would like to explain why.
Decades ago I had a friend by the name of Frank Blaydes. I knew him because he played both over the board and correspondence chess. He was from Hahira, in the southern part of Georgia, and younger than me. I knew him when he attended Georgia Tech, but not from chess because he, like most young people, had little time for chess. Our paths crossed again when I started playing backgammon because the Blade, as he was known in backgammon circles, was also playing BG while attending the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga. I would go there each week to play in the weekly backgammon tournament and the chouette after. We flew to Las Vegas twice for the World Amateur Backgammon Championships. Frank was studying to be a doctor, a General Practitioner, at a time when most medical students were specializing in one particular area of medicine. The Blade wanted to go back to the southern part of Georgia and make his practice where his roots were.
The second time we travelled to Las Vegas together we met two young women from Hawaii who were also playing in the tournament. The problem was that the Blade had eyes for the one named Stella Brown, and she liked me. On the flight out the Blade kept his face buried in a medical textbook. I learned from firsthand experience just difficult it is to become a doctor. Frank had to take an early flight back, so Stella and I rode with him to the airport, and then returned to the hotel. The cold shoulder began that night and our relationship was never the same. From then on our relationship was strained.
Frank once told me that emergency room doctors were, “A special breed.” He elaborated by saying, “Doctors practice medicine, but ER doctors save lives, NOW!” I watched the TV program “ER” while thinking of the Blade. Because of Frank I watch a few episodes of most new medical programs, the latest being “Monday Mornings.” Years later while watching the local news I learned Frank had died when his small plane, the one he had purchased in order to cover more territory in his beloved homeland, hit a transmission tower in the fog. I was devastated, and broke down and cried, something I rarely, if ever, did in those younger days.
Having worked at the Atlanta Chess Center, I realize how much work goes into any chess tournament. I know the people behind the scenes devote a tremendous amount of time. My mother once told me that the most valuable thing a person can give anyone is their time. All of these folks I have written about are wonderful people. Next time you see one of them tell them how much you appreciate what they do.
I have reached the age when I fear doctors. Most my age feel the same way. I have put off seeing a doctor because, as one Senior put it, “Once you see a doctor, you begin the process.” We all know how the process ends. Yet I put ER doctors in a special category. I knew that the President of the GCA, Fun Fong, was a MD, but until Scott’s email, was not aware he worked in the ER. Certainly the time he spent in an ER was far more important and valuable to society than using that time having a chess tournament rated. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the work done by Dr. Fong.

GM Panchanathan Storms the Castle!

After winning his first four games versus NM Toby Boas, NM Chris Mabe, GM Julio Becerra, and IM Irina Krush, GM Magesh Panchanathan offered an early draw to his last round opponent, GM Varuzhan Akobian, which was accepted. That gave clear first to Magesh, with Varuzhan a half-point back in clear second. When interviewed after the tournament, Var, as he was called by the staff, said he decided to accept because he had the black pieces, saying, “You know how big an advantage having white is. Besides, I was very tired from the camp and Magesh deserved to win the tournament.” Akobian beat NM Nicholas Rosenthal in the first round, drew with GM John Fedorowicz in round two, beat GM Alonso Zapata in the third round, and GM Julio Becerra in the fourth round, which caused the most successful player in the history of the Castle to withdraw. Four players tied for third with three and a half points, GM Zapata; IM Krush; NM Mabe; and the story of the tournament, Expert William Coe. The latter two garnered the Under 2400 prize money.
I interviewed many of the players after their games had ended. Because of the short draw I was able to conduct much longer interviews with the board one players. Everyone asked consented to an interview and all were gracious. I can tell you I enjoyed the experience immensely. I have been around chess many decades and will tell you this was one of the best chess days I have ever had, and it is all because of these wonderful people sharing some of their time and thoughts with me. I would like to thank each one of them.
This was the second year the winner, GM Panchanathan, was an instructor at the Castle Chess Camp, but this was the first year he played in the tournament. Most of the teachers who played looked tired, but not Magesh. Winning may have had something to do with that fact. He looked like he could go another round! He is originally from India, but now lives in New Jersey. He attended U.T. Dallas on a chess scholarship where he earned a Masters in computer science. He has worked at many camps and said this was the best! “It was fun, and very well organized. The campers come back, and the coaches, too.” When pressed on what makes the Castle Chess Camp the best, he said, “There is concentrated teaching, and the campers do other things, like play soccer. There were maybe seven coaches against maybe fifty students kicking the ball around, having the best time.” He has been in the US for a decade now and is a permanent resident. When asked if he would be back next year, he said he would come if invited. “I thought there was a rule that the tournament winner received an automatic invitation,” I said. He noticed my smile, and he, too, smiled, saying, “I wish that were so.”
This is the fourth year for the runner-up finisher, GM Varuzhan Akobian. He won the tournament outright in 2010. Although he does several camps each summer, he said this was his favorite. When asked why, he responded, “It is the atmosphere. It is very well organized. All of the people behind the scenes deserve all the credit because they make it easy for us to concentrate on teaching. This camp is different because it is not crowded. There are small groups of no more than twelve students.”
I enjoyed interviewing with IM Irina Krush because I have followed her career and know she has elevated her game to a much higher level recently. I would have liked to ask her some questions about those things, but she had just ended a long talk with someone else, and looked tired. She was, though, extremely gracious, smiling when seeing the name of my blog. She said the name, “Armchair Warrior,” as if she got a kick out of it, while smiling. I considered telling her how I came upon the name, but thought better of it. This is her third time here and she mentioned the last may have been 2004, so I said, “Maybe when you played LM David Vest?” I intentionally did not use the word, “lost.” She looked me in the eye and said, “Maybe so…” She told me the reason for taking the half point bye was because she was tired, as she had come here directly from another camp and “I will be sooooo glad to catch my flight home tonight.” She did say that if she had it to do over again, “I would force myself to play the Saturday night round and take the bye in the fourth round Sunday morning.” When asked about the camp Irina said it was, “Awesome.” She went on to say, “The staff is GREAT, and so are the instructors. It was an intense week.”
I talked with several other instructors and they all, each and every one, echoed the above, with some mentioning some of the staff by name. I covered some of the staff in my previous report, so I would like to acknowledge Debbie Torrance, the treasurer, participating in her sixth camp. Although she said, “I am not a chess person,” it is obvious she has made a place for her non-chess persona at the Castle. She is a charming woman. Susan Justice, whom I was not able to talk with, unfortunately, is in her first year. It is difficult to talk with someone who is always on the move.
I managed to talk with Reese Thompson, who has become a force to be reckoned with in Georgia chess. He said the instructors were, “Perfect.” You cannot get any better than that! He said, “I played up (a section) because I wanted to challenge expert level opponents, but many others also played up, so it was like I was playing in a class ‘A’ section.” When I asked him if he had profited from the week he looked puzzled, thinking I meant profit as in money, saying,“I am not sure how much I will win.” When I told him I meant profit as in benefiting from the camp, he said, “Oh yeah!” Debbie delivered his check as our interview ended and I said, “It looks like you also profited in another way.” He and his mother grinned as the talk turned to how the money would be spent.
I talked with Carter Peatman who said he has, “Grown up at the Castle Chess Camp.” He said that he had “learned a lot,” and “profited from it.” He also said it had been “tiring, but worth it.” Everyone with whom I talked said things like this, so for me to continue would only be redundant. It is obvious to me the Castle Camp deserves all the accolades it receives. Those responsible have done something very special and unique for our city and state.
I mentioned earlier that the story of the tournament was William Coe. Although he was rated as an expert for this tournament, he is a former NM. This was his first tournament in a quarter of a century! I had to interview a fellow Senior, especially one who garnered a decent prize in his return to the board in twenty five years. The first question I asked was why he had decided to come back to the arena. His response was that he told himself he would come back when his daughter was grown, as she is now, and, “My wife was out of town.” While the wife is away the husband will play…CHESS! Don’t you love it? He said he was from San Antonio I told him about my trip there in 1972 for the Church’s tournaments and he said he, too, had played in those events while in high school. Since I was twenty two then, it was obvious I am a few years older than William. I mentioned two players who put me up in the house they shared, Michael Moore and NM John Dunning, whom William said he knew well. “That Dunning was quite a character.” He did tell me that he has played speed chess in ICC, “Sometimes beating IM’s and GM’s.” He lives in Marietta and knows Justin Morrison, and has “Played in his Tuesday thing.” He said that although he enjoyed playing on the computer he missed the “Human touch.” I was amazed that he has been in Atlanta for a quarter of a century without playing. He said, “I had a great time because the tournament was so well organized. He informed me that when he decided to come back to tournament chess he had gone by the North Dekalb Mall to check out the site, going so far as to take pictures. He determined he would not play there because, “I had no desire to spend my weekend in that room.” William seemed somewhat disappointed even though he had won a chunk of change. William decried receiving a full point bye. He also mentioned the short time between the penultimate round and the final round was simply not enough. “All I had time for was some crackers. It should be one hour,” he stated. William lamented not having played the strongest possible competition. NM Michael Corallo, happened to walk up at that moment and said, “I would take the money!” He had a chance to do just that as he had three points going into the last round before losing to Irina Krush. Michael has moved here from Florida and lives near Mr. Coe in Kid Chess land.
I would like to mention one other player new to Atlanta. Her name is Elena Gratskya and I believe she tied for first in the class ‘B’ section. I do not know for sure because as I punch & poke this report the crosstables are still not up on the USCF website. After printing out a copy of the Open section for me, Jim Mundy was asked to assist the chief TD, so he said, “The tournament will be up as soon as possible because that’s the way they want it.” I decided to leave at that time without waiting for results of the lower sections. I first noticed Elena at the now infamous Atlanta Chess Championship. No one with whom I spoke seemed to know who she was or where she came from, so I decided to ask her for an interview. The pretty young woman seemed flattered, asking me to walk outside with her to ask my questions because she had become chilled in the playing hall. “That will sometimes happen when the air conditioning is turned down and the crowd begins to thin out,” I said. “It is much better than the horrible heat of the previous tournament,” she said, meaning the ACC. I learned she is from St. Petersburg, Russia, and moved to Atlanta recently because she has friends here. She played chess when much younger in Russia, “Because it is mandatory in schools.” She did not play for eight years, but enjoys playing. This was only her third tournament here and she said it was, “Well organized!” She works for Kid Chess. If a chess league ever develops Justin Morrison will be able to field a strong team!
I regret having no further details at this time, ten o’clock on the morning of the Monday following the tournament. My apologies for the delay. It was ready. All I needed was the crosstables. I received this from Scott Parker this morning in reply to my query concerning the crosstables not being posted by one am this morning:
“Fun Fong will be the one sending the report in to USCF. Jim Mundy has another camp at Pace Academy that he and Carlos Perdomo are doing that begins today (Monday) at 9:00 am and lasts all week, so he doesn’t have the time to take care of this.”
Best Wishes,
In closing I would like to say that this is the tournament Atlanta deserves. It is simply not possible for me to say enough about the strong group of wonderful people responsible for putting this event together. Atlanta is considered the capital of the South, yet the tournament conditions here have been abysmal. I would say the conditions in most tournaments have been “third world” like, except I have seen much better conditions in third world countries online. It should be known that Atlanta has a huge base of potential players, and organizers around the country should take note of that fact. Chess tournaments are held in nice hotels all over the country but not Atlanta. It is time for that to change. Atlanta should take its rightful place with other cities of comparable size. It has been, and still is, a shame that the Southern Open is not held in the capital of the South! Atlanta is a magnet for drawing Southern people, and those from other areas as well. It is way past time my home city enter a new age and the new century.

Castle History

An email from Scott Parker corrects something I wrote yesterday.


The five GM’s playing this year ties the record for this event set in 2002. In that year we had GM’s Yury Shulman, Ildar Ibragimov, Aleks Wojtkiewicz, Pavel Blatny and Art Bisguier. The funny thing is that only Bisguier was on staff at the camp. The other four each showed up for the tournament not knowing that each other was coming. Another funny thing was that Pavel Blatny (who is a really nice guy) voluntarily turned in copies of all five of his game scoresheets. Not a single move could be deciphered off of any of them!

Best Regards,Scott

Castling Queenside

I just returned from Emory University, site of the 13th edition of the Castle Chess Grand Prix. 217 players are participating this year, the same number as last year. Since there were fewer chess campers this year that means there are more players who were not involved with the camp this year. Five of those players are Grandmasters, with an additional two International Masters. There are eight National Masters, led by Georgia’s own Damir Studen, the State Champ, along with five experts to round out the twenty player field. Form held down the line in the first round, which included games played Friday night and Saturday morning. The second round is underway as I write. The top players are already meeting in round two, as long time camper GM John Fedorowicz was paired with Varuzhan Akobian on board one. Meanwhile, the home town hope, NM Studen was playing his beloved Scandinavian, or as we called it “back in the day” the Center-Counter, versus the GM Scott Parker calls, “The most successful, by far…,” of the twelve previous Castle tournaments, Julio Becerra, on second board.
This is the first time there have been five GM’s playing in the tournament, and it could have been more. GM Jesse Kraai could not play for personal reasons. Mrs. Christianson, president of the Castle Chess Camp, informs Jesse has taken a year off from chess to write a novel based on chess and had to deal with the publication, which was delayed. He had hoped to have copies at the camp, but it was not to be. Another GM had a family emergency to attend, unfortunately. I had an opportunity to talk with Jennifer Christiansen, whom I recall from my days at the House of Pain. I mentioned how much I liked an article she penned for the Georgia Chess magazine, telling her it touched me, making me think of my mother. She wrote about how much she had learned from her sons. As far as I am concerned her short essay should win an award, hands-down! She told me it had been written upon the request of the editor, Mark Taylor, because he needed to fill space. I could relate to that because I have previously done the same thing, taking heat for the article I had thrown together from a particularly acerbic critic. During our discussion she mentioned something about “nearing the end,” and I assumed she meant that because her sons are now grown and will be going to college, and would be out of scholastic chess she would no longer be involved. Au contraire! She let me know she has told others that when her sons left for college she intended on becoming a player. She did admit to playing at home and on the internet now. She also told me a wonderful story about one time when she did try to play in a tournament at the ACC, as she called the Atlanta Chess & Game Center. “I was upstairs playing and happened to look out of the open window-it was summer and you know how hot the place could be, especially upstairs-and I saw my boys playing tag and running out into the street and I had to ask myself what I was doing up there.” The woman is a dedicated chess mom and obviously a wonderful mother. Check out the article about her son, Ryan, on page 33 of the June issue of Chess Life magazine. I must admit the picture of Ryan floored me, since it has been some years since I have seen the little fellow.
The tournament is taking place in Cox Hall, a spacious, well air-conditioned, room, with plenty of room for everyone. There are other chess moms to assist, and one can tell they are operating as a team. The tournament is being directed with military precision by the chief TD, Mr. David Hater, assisted by Jim Mundy, one of the nicest people you will ever meet in chess. It was a real treat to see, and talk, albeit briefly, with the man known as the Sheriff. Mayberry had Andy, while Atlanta had the irrepressible Mr. Scott Parker, who managed to take time away from his family obligations to visit the Castle. These people are the reason the Castle Chess Grand Prix exudes class.
The top two boards are displayed on the wall by an overhead projector, with the first board on the far left side of the room, and the second board on the other. I was not the only spectator as I talked with Jim Lawhon and Larry Bolton, who, like me, were not playing. Thank you Larry for the kind words about the blog, and I would also like to thank Gary Newsome, a visitor, who told his wife that I wrote a very popular blog read all over the world. “Everyone reads his blog,” Gary said, “I bet Anand even reads his blog!” I do not know about Anand, but I do know for a fact that several GM’s read the Armchair Warrior. I would like to thank them, and all of you in the fifty countries, and counting, that have surfed on over to read the blog.
One of the things about trying to write about a tournament is it is difficult to interview anyone while they are playing. For example, IM Irina Krush walked right by me, lost in thought. I had been watching her game with Anuprita Patil, the only other female in the top section. What are the odds of that happening? I can recall the time when it was extremely rare to see even one female in the whole tournament. I noticed several more playing on the lower boards. The times they are a-changing. I wanted to introduce myself and ask her a question or two, but I refrained because I have played in tournaments and know some consider it nothing but a distraction. I admit considering the odds Irina would smile and say, “OK,” as opposed to, “Buzz off, Buster!” Not that I have not heard the latter previously in various, non-chess situations…When one plays in a tournament there is little time for anything other than playing, or getting ready to play. When the tournament is over the players want to just get on down the road, as I know only too well. But I will be at the tournament tomorrow afternoon during the last round, trying my best to obtain a quote or two. I mentioned to Jim Mundy that I was looking forward to the last round tomorrow because it should be exciting. “I know,” he said. “It’s exciting right now!” he said with a smile, sending me off on a good note.

Riding the Roller Coaster with Hikaru Nakamura

David Spinks, the caretaker of what has become known as the Dump, officially the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, had difficulty wrapping his mind around the fact that I could watch a game of baseball, or any other sporting event, for just the joy of it. “”You gotta pull for SOMEBODY, man!” Spinks would say. True to his words, David would “pull” for a golfer by the name of Briny Baird. I looked Briny up once, learning his given name is Michael Hancey; that he attended Ga. Tech before transferring to Valdosta State University where he won the NCAA Division II individual golf championship in 1994 and 1995. Spinks knew none of this and was surprised when informed, questioning why I would have gone to the trouble to learn more about Briny. I told him I wanted to understand what motivation he could have had to “pull” for Briny, adding, “It must be the hat.” David looked at me incredulously and said, “I like his name. Who ever heard of a name like Briny?” Since Briny has the distinction of being the richest golfer never to win a PGA Tour event, earning over $12 million during his career, but coming up short five times, I guess he needs all the fans he can get to “pull” for him…
Eleven years of my early life were devoted to playing baseball, and I have learned from reading about the brain that I watch baseball because in my mind it is like I am actually playing the game. I will, though, “pull” for my home teams, such as the Atlanta Braves and Ga. Tech Yellow Jackets.
I am a fan of the game of chess and very much enjoy watching the top level events broadcast in real time via the internet. Although I realize it is wrong to wish for things that never were, I cannot help think about how wonderful it would have been to be able to watch the Fischer-Spassky match for the World Championship in the way I was able to watch the match between Anand and Gelfand. Now I follow Hikaru Nakamura with a passion. His games are interesting and often exciting to behold. His play evokes visceral emotions. For example, yesterday he beat the World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, with the black pieces in the sixth round of the Tal Memorial. In so doing he launched his g-pawn at the Champ. After it was taken, Nakamura was left with a ruptured King side formation. I used to play that way, and would usually lose. My opponents were nowhere near world class. Seeing this on The Week In Chess (http://www.theweekinchess.com/) sent me to the Chess Bomb (http://chessbomb.com/) which has analysis by the program known as Houdini. It did not have the g-pawn launch as one of the top four moves, but the dagger aimed at the heart of the Tiger of Madras won the game. What does Houdini know?
Hikaru, playing white, began the tournament with a horrible loss to Mamedyarov. The roller coaster began a steep descent. It was short though, as the roller coaster began its climb. Then three wins in succession against three of the top players in the world. The coaster leveled out with a draw before attaining its zenith, as Hikaru beat the Champion of the World. Then the roller coaster encountered precipitous fall, as Nakamura lost with white to the grizzled veteran, Boris Gelfand, the man who took the World Champ into souped-up, heebe-jeeb, tie break games before losing the match for the title. A strange thing happened in that the loss has seemed to embolden Boris ‘Grizzly’ Gelfand, while leaving Anand a toothless tiger from Madras. With his win with the Chelyabinsk variation of the Pelikan Sicilian, Grizzly Gelfand has taken the lead from our hero. Like Bobby Fischer put it after losing game four of his rematch with Boris Spassky, “That’s chess, you know. One day you give a lesson, the next day your opponent gives you a lesson.”
There are still two games to play, but Hikaru has to play the number one player in the world, Magnus Carlsen, with black, tomorrow. Thus, Boris would seem to have easier pairings for the last two rounds, but anything can happen when one rides the roller coaster with Hiraru Nakamura!

Castle Chess Grand Prix Preview

An email from the Sheriff, Scott Parker, former President of the Georgia Chess Association, and also a former Senior Champion of the Great State of Georgia, informs:
Confirmed participants for this weekend include:
GM Varuzhan Akobian
GM Julio Becerra
GM John Fedorowicz
GM Magesh Panchanathan
GM Alonso Zapata
IM Irina Krush
Best Regards,
Mr. Parker has written an informative article on the Castle Chess Grand Prix for Chess Life magazine. It is on page 46 of the June issue and includes a wonderful picture of the campus of Emory University. Emory is not just close to home for me, it is my home. I was born in the back seat of a ’49 Ford convertible on the way to Emory University hospital in 1950. My mother and I were rolled into the hospital. One cannot get closer to home than this, and the hospital is within walking distance of the tournament hall. I plan on reporting from the tournament all three days, so in a way, this is a homecoming for me.
For my international readers who do not have access to Chess Life this is the 13th Castle Chess Camp and tournament at Emory. The prize fund has been raised to $12,000, all of it guaranteed. This payout is the most guaranteed money of any tournament in the Southeast. Most of the above is from Scott’s article in Chess Life.
Scott asks, and answers, the question, “So who is likely to win the Castle Chess Grand Prix tournament? Well, to start with, you’re probably going to be a grandmaster to do it. Only Life Master David Vest, who tied for first in 2003 (by beating Irina Krush in the last round-A.W.), IM Jonathan Schroer, who won in 2004, and IM/WGM Anna Zatonskih (Why is she not considered only an IM? What, exactly, is the point of having separate titles for women?-A.W.), who tied for first in 2005 were non-grandmaster champions. The most successful, by far, has been GM Julio Becerra. Playing almost every year, he has twice been first alone, and four times he has tied for the top prize. Other past winners are GMs Varuzhan Akobian, Yury Shulman, Alejandro Ramirex, Ildar Ibragimov, Greg Serper, and Babakuli Annakov.”
It may be too late for you to, as Scott writes, “Come see Atlanta and world renowned Emory University, and see why the Castle Chess Grand Prix continues to grow every year.” But you can read all about the tournament right here, so check back all weekend for reports by the Warrior of the Armchair!